Telegram messenger walks for one last time – India

15  july  2013

JAIPUR: As the country marked the “death” of the 163-year-old Indian telegram service on Sunday, the job was not yet over for 59-year-old Sriram Babu, a telegram messenger, posted at the Jaipur GPO.

Babu was given a bundle of 80 telegrams on Monday to deliver till this evening for one last time in his life. Before he walked out towards his bicycle, TOI spoke to him on his experiences since 1976 when he had joined the service.

Bandh aur curfew nahin rok paye mujhe aaj sarkar ne rok diya (I was not stopped by bandhs and curfews, but today the government has stopped me),” said Babu while trying to supress his emotions.

“I used to cover a distance of almost 40 km per day to deliver telegrams. I have witnessed people crying, celebrating, distributing sweats and even abusing me at times. Despite the fact that number of telegrams delivered per day now is very less compared to the time when there was no internet and mobile, I believe the government has murdered telegram by abruptly ending the service,” said Babu.Sharing his association with the service he said: “After I joined, I was sent for a month-long training for an update on various expressions used in telegram in Hindi and English. During those days I used to deliver 200 to 300 telegrams per day.”

“I still remember when Jaipur witnessed boats on streets after after floods in 1981 and on MI Road I had to swim across before getting into a boat arranged by the government but thankfully all the telegrams were intact,” Babu said. Even during the curfew in Jaipur in December 1992 following the riots, my services were uninterrupted. Many a times I went to the office at 8 am and returned home at 12 am,” Babu said.

He had studied till class VIII before joining the service and started with a nominal salary of Rs 150 per month. “Whenever I delivered a telegram bearing the news of a demise, I was never even offered a glass of water even if it was the blistering summer. However, during festivals like Id and Diwali people invited me to their drawing rooms for a cup of tea followed by sweets. Goods news would vary from promotions to the birth of a child,” he added.

Elaborating the importance of telegrams before mobile and internet services took over, Babu said, “Even newspaper industry was dependent on him when news agencies were getting all their news from telegram from various parts of the state. Irrespective of the nature of the telegram, it always gave me an impression that I am associated with a job which is not only responsible but had a huge impact on people’s sentiments.”

Babu’s retirement is due on January 31, 2014. “I have no health issues like blood pressure, diabetes or other problems because I ride the bicycle for almost 6 hours a day and cover a distance of 20 to 40 km. But, I feel from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards it would be difficult for me.”

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